By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Lawyer Edgar Avila says that updating the Baguio City charter is good and is a big help for the City of Baguio especially the amending of its obsolete provisions.
According to him, this was the basic premise when he, then the dean of the Saint Louis University college of law and Baguio Colleges Foundation then President Edilberto Tenefrancia were in the study group for amending the City Charter. He said this was in 1999 to 2001.
Avila said the goal for a charter change in the city was to solve the boundary disputes with the neighboring town of Tuba, Benguet. He also said that they in the study group all agreed that ancestral land and domain claims especially of the Ibaloi should be recognized.
He cited the Philippine constitution as the basis of their recognition. Under article 5 of Article 12 of the Philippine Constitution states that “the State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well-being.”
“It was only after it was authored by Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan who was then the representative at that time, and adopted by Congressman Bernardo Vergara as House Bill 3759 that there was a 90% change in the proposed City Charter amemendments.
In the version that was now adapted by the Bicameral Committee of the House of Senate and Congress, the right to ancestral land claims will not be recognized. He said Baguio City is not covered by the ancestral land law.
In the last week of November, the Bicameral committee approved the bill after members cleared earlier conflicting versions of the City Charter change. The committee report will be submitted to both the Senate and Congress for ratification before it will be transmitted to the Office of the President to be signed into law.
Avila added that during the time of the study group, they suggested that ordinances regarding the utilization of lands of Baguio be included in the charter change.
He said that there should also be a uniformed interpretation of the amendments in the city charter.
He also said they were seeking for a definition of character of Baguio, if it should be the summer capital of the Philippines, the educational center or tourist destination.
The lawyer said he sees one provision in the house bill that can be dangerous. He said the present mayor can be the City’s executive forever. Under section 43 of the bill, there shall be an awards committee composed of the City Mayor as the chairman and the Regional Executive Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera Administrative Region as vice-chairman.
The members will be the chairman of the committee on Lands, Housing, and Relocation of the City Council, the city planning and development officer, the Registry of Deeds, the city assessor and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources officer of the DENR-CAR.
He explained that the awarding of lots to so-called qualified individuals by the mayor, can construed by the people as a favor and oblige them to feel indebted especially everytime elections come.
He also said that in the awards, politics may influence the processes. He asked, “what if an applicant happens to be an opponent of the chairman?”
Meanwhile, Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) Secretary General Daisy Bagni said only the rich will benefit from the revised city charter, only the moneyed can always pay for the titling of the lands leaving the penniless deprived.
Avila said once the bill is approved by the President, somebody may it be organizations or individuals concerned should go to the Supreme Court either to question some of its provisions or the charter as a whole. # nordis.net